Everything about the best Ukrainian boxer of our time: how he came to boxing, how he won the Olympic Games and why Oleksandr Usyk is the best heavyweight boxer right now, in 2022.
Ukrainian boxing gave the world a lot of big names: as soon as the era of the Klitschko brothers left, they started talking about Vasily Lomachenko. Oleksandr Gvozdyk held the WBC light heavyweight belt, and Sergei Derevyanchenko earned a reputation as one of the most unyielding middleweight boxers.
But Usyk’s star shone brightest of all: complete dominance in the first heavyweight, the title of absolute champion, the transition to the heavyweight category and a landmark victory over Anthony Joshua.
Top 5 Usyk fights
The professional debut took place in 2013 in Kyiv, where Usyk knocked out the experienced Mexican Felipe Romero in the fifth round. Usyk won his first belt a year later, leaving no chance for the South African Daniel Brewer. And that was just the beginning.
Let’s remember Usyk’s best professional fights.
Oleksandr Usyk – Krzysztof Glowacki
Date: September 17, 2016
Location: Gdansk, Poland
Głowacki was on a streak of 26 wins in a row, and some pundits even called the Polish boxer the favourite. Although at this point, Usyk’s performance in the professionals is nine wins by knockout and not a single defeat.
By defeating Glovatsky, the Ukrainian would break the record held by Evander Holyfield himself: the fewest fights before the world heavyweight title.
Usyk quickly adapted to the style of Głowacki, who preferred to slowly break the opponent, occupying the center of the ring. But we already know that this is a bad tactic against the Ukrainian: already at the very beginning of the fight, Alexander cut the Pole’s eyebrow and methodically left behind him round after round.
There was a noticeable difference in the class of boxers: the Ukrainian seemed to be playing with the world champion, dancing around and delivering accurate and biting punches, periodically switching on and turning them into a rapid series.
In the late rounds, there was only one question – will Glowacki survive all 12? The Pole survived. However, the victory by unanimous decision went to the Ukrainian, along with the first world title in his career – according to the WBO. Holyfield’s record has fallen.
Oleksandr Usyk – Marco Hook
Date: September 9, 2017
Location: Berlin, Germany
Hook is not a very famous boxer, but he held the WBO world title for a long 11 years, having made 13 successful defenses, including against Russian Denis Lebedev.
But that evening there was only one boxer in the ring. Nine rounds of complete domination from Usyk – the ex-world champion simply could not oppose anything to the newly minted belt holder. He was faster, more precise, more powerful.
In the 10th round, the champion got tired of playing with his opponent and turned on in full – Hook flew from one corner of the ring to another until the judge intervened and stopped the beating.
This fight took place as part of the prestigious World Boxing Super Series tournament. In the semi-finals, the Ukrainian in a close fight will defeat the Latvian boxer Mairis Briedis, and in the final, the Russian Murat Gassiev was waiting for him.
Alexander Usik – Murat Gassiev
Date: July 21, 2018
Location: Moscow, Russia
The best moments of Usyk in professional boxing cannot be imagined without a fight with Gassiev. WBS Final. There are five heavyweight belts at stake. Fight for the title of absolute world champion! Record for two: 31 wins and no losses. The level of intensity and expectations can hardly be expressed in words.
But all questions about the fight were already removed by its equator – Gassiev did not manage to carry out a single significant combination. Alexander competently kept his distance, counterattacked and fully owned the initiative. Rare blows of the Russian on the body simply did not have the slightest chance to inflict damage on the Ukrainian.
The result of the fight was reflected in the referee’s notes – 120-108, 119-109, 119-109. In Ukraine, the absolute champion again shone.
Oleksandr Usyk – Tony Bellew
Date: November 10, 2018
Location: Manchester, UK
After gaining the title of WBO super champion, Usyk got a chance to fight the organization’s heavyweight champion. This is Tony Bellew – a strong British boxer without high-profile victories in his track record.
But unexpectedly, Bellew seized the initiative in the fight and left the first rounds behind him. The Briton interrupted on Usyk’s points, skillfully avoiding the power attacks of the Ukrainian, who at times did not look like himself.
However, in the eighth round, Sasha rebooted and seized the initiative, and the Briton missed blow after blow until the classic two sent Bellew to sleep. Tony could not recover after a monstrous series – and Usyk’s best knockouts were supplemented with another highlight.
Oleksandr Usyk – Anthony Joshua
Date: September 25, 2021
Location: London, UK
The main fight in his career. The chance to master four belts at once in the heavy weight category is already in the fourth fight. An amazing achievement!
Plus, the fight promises to be a record for a Ukrainian in terms of pay-per-view sales.
The number of battle broadcasts bought by viewers on the Internet.
– Usyk’s top fights have caused a stir before, but the confrontation with Joshua, presumably, broke all records.
If the Ukrainian approached all previous fights in the status of a clear favorite, then in the fight with Joshua the Briton clearly looked more convincing – Anthony was taller, more powerful and was considered the main dominant boxer in the heavyweight division.
Contrary to expectations, Alexander seized the initiative from the first round, simply preventing Joshua from using his size advantage thanks to filigree footwork. A couple of times Anthony managed to shake Usyk powerfully, but it was not enough.
And in the end, the badly beaten Joshua began to let down his physical readiness. The duel turned into a uniform beating of the eminent world champion. Anthony literally lived to see the final gong.
The judges counted the victory of Usyk, who tried on four heavyweight belts at once.
Joshua’s team immediately started talking about a rematch, which should take place in 2022. And in this fight, Anthony will definitely not be a favorite against the backdrop of a magnificent Ukrainian.
Best amateur fight
Before boxing, Sasha was engaged in folk dancing and was fond of football – the future world champion in two weight categories furrowed the left edge of the Tavria youth team. The first amateur tournaments, defeats, victories – the standard way for an amateur boxer to the Olympic Games. Having collected a whole bunch of medals, including the gold of the World Championship in 2011, Usyk, in the status of the leader in the AIBA (International Boxing Association) heavyweight rating, was preparing for the main test – the London Olympics.
Usyk came to London as the main favorite. Alexander already stood out against the background of his rivals with his amazing mobility in the ring.
Russian Artur Beterbiev, who met Usyk as an amateur twice, in one of his interviews called the Ukrainian a “jump”, which characterizes Alexander’s fighting style very well: unlike many amateur heavyweights, he does not stagnate.
In the 1/4 finals of the Olympic Games, Usyk boxed just with Beterbiev.
Usyk was visually much more powerful than his opponent, but Beterbiev seized the initiative from the first minutes of the fight. The Russian desperately tried to pin Usyk to the ropes, but the Ukrainian was elusive.
The first round was a draw, and in the second, Beterbiev hit the liver well – Usyk was counted for a standing knockdown. In almost 90% of cases, a knockdown in a three-round boxing match is a victory … but Usyk turned the tide of the fight and left behind the second and third rounds. 17:13.
The outcome of that fight is still controversial. However, the way Usyk adapted to the opponent and how he worked on counterattacks is a ready-made guide “Winning the Olympic Games: just about the difficult.”
In the semi-finals of the Olympics, Usyk went over the Bulgarian Tervel Pulev with a skating rink, and in the final, in a very close duel, snatched gold from the Italian Clemente Russo. Then the Ukrainian for the first time showed the world his victorious hopak, which eventually became an invariable attribute of his professional fights.